We first began to hear of the $1 Trillion Platinum Coin solution to the debt ceiling earlier this month from people like Joe Weisnethal at The Business Insider. Soon there was speculation from commentators at staid, reliable sources like The Economist, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. The idea was that there was an obscure law that would effectively permit the Secretary of the Treasury to bypass the debt ceiling by minting its own money. Most of the discussion was about the legality of it all. It turned out that it was, in fact, legal.
The Secretary [of the Treasury] may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.
Now, if we still lived in a world of print journalism, the Platinum Coin solution might have remained an interesting idea. Not an idea to be taken seriously, however.
The roller coaster ride that was the “episode of the platinum coin” is instructive. Ideas are floated, commented upon, and either accepted or rejected before most of us have had a chance to digest them, let alone think deeply about them. And, who do we look to for reliable information: a Nobel Prize winning Economist, or a comedian, or any of the other “voices” available to us on-line? I did a Google search for “the trillion dollar solution” and got 88,700,00 results in .19 seconds.
A search for “Platinum Coin Debt Ceiling” resulted in 74,700,00 hits in .25 seconds.